Seeking to stem the tide of violence in public schools, the parents of three 1997 murder victims in Paducah, Kentucky, have filed a $100 million federal lawsuit claiming a variety of "defective" media products—computer games, Internet sites, and a motion picture—triggering the fatal assault by Michael Carneal.
Named as defendants are the makers of computer games Quake and Doom, as well as of Sega and Nintendo game systems and the producers and distributors of The Basketball Diaries, a 1995 Island Films release based on Jim Carroll's 1978 novel. Both the novel—a recounting of the diary of a disaffected high-school student—and the film had scenes where the protagonist shoots a gun into a classroom of students, but the movie, which starred Leonardo Di Caprio, made the scene more graphic and violent.
In his trial, Carneal, who is serving a 25-year sentence without the possibility of parole for the murders of Jessica James, Kayce Steger, and Nicole Marie Hadley, relied on the testimony of Yale University medical professor Diane Schetky, an adolescent psychiatrist, who determined the killer had been "conditioned" by intensive exposure to violent games and movies.
The civil suit, filed by Coral Gables, Floridabased liability lawyer Jack B. Thompson and Bowling Green attorney Mike Breen, claims the products are "defective" because they taught Carneal how to kill effectively, without warning of their potentially deadly results.
"We have simply taken time-honored, adjudicated, reasonable-standard tort theory and applied it to these three categories of products," Thompson told CT. "The most understandable would be those theories applied to video games," which he calls "killing simulators" that teach advanced techniques ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more